Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dr. Jekyll vs. the Werewolf (1972): or, You Can't Run, But You Can Hyde

Oh, Paul Naschy--have I told you lately that I love you?

That fateful day a couple of years ago, when I went down to my local dollar store and discovered the untold riches of Vengeance of the Zombies and Paul Naschy, is now justly famous in MMMMMovies lore. There's a reason that film was the first praised and enshrined on this site--for without it, this outpost of the Vicarage and the Duchy would almost certainly not exist.

What's lesser known is that in that same batch of movies was a werewolf double-feature bearing a copy of the 1972 Paul Naschy monster-mash Dr. Jekyll and the Wolf Man, directed by Paul's frequent collaborator, the recently lauded León Klimovsky. The sixth movie in Naschy's famous Waldemar Daninsky Werewolf Saga, DJvWM is sandwiched between the wild and woolly craziness of Fury of the Wolfman and the elegant artistic excellence of Curse of the Devil--and though it shares more in tone and content with the former than the latter, it's still got the childlike enthusiasm, go-for-broke kitchen-sink attitude, and flashes of almost-brilliance that make even a lesser Naschy flick an uncontrollable joy-storm--at least for someone like me.

We open in an opulent mansion somewhere in London, where late-middle-aged businessman Imre Kosta (José Marco) is hosting a dinner party and waxing nostalgic about his home town back in Transylvania. Having recently wedded trophy wife Justine--the ridiculously hot Shirley Corrigan, who would later appear in the more-than-decent Devil's Nightmare--he's decided to take her back to the old village on their honeymoon. Though his guests scoff at the idea and make fun of the old legends of vampires and werewolves, a blast of wind flings open a window and knocks over the bust of a satyr, obviously expressing supernatural disapproval at Imre's guests' lack of manners.

Next thing you know Imre and Justine are cruising the sheep-runs of outer Transylvania in their Rolls Royce, which you just know is going to draw the wrong kind of attention. It's the dead of winter, and once the snow starts dropping, the Rolls starts stopping. While Imre fiddles with the engine, Justine (working the pink-top/black-skirt ensemble under an AMAZING fur-edged coat) goes off to explore a nearby hovel, wherein she is horrified by the sudden appearance of a disfigured hobo! She flees back into Imre's arms, and soon they're off again, the hobo waving them a fond farewell.

What's pink, black, and awesome?

Soon they've arrived at the village of Baliavasta, Imre's home town where, as always, time apparently came to a stop around 1490. They get lodgings at the only Inn in town, run by Crazy Ralph-prototype Gyogyo (whose real name, Bernabe Barta Barri, is almost as fun to say). The innkeeper tells them the story of the hobo, who was apparently a wealthy pillar of the community until somehow popular opinion turned ("They even set his dogs against him!" goes Gyogyo) and the villagers burned down his house for some reason, rendering him a scarred homeless feeb "who wanders around the area like a living dead man!" When Gyogyo learns of Imre's plan to visit the old cemetery to pay his respects to his ancestors, he warns the businessman against it, and further tells him not even to THINK about visiting "The Black Castle" nearby. At a neighboring table, a group of unsavory looking villagers eyes the rich man hungrily, and we all know where this is headed.

At the cemetery Imre finds the family crypt (marked FEDALMATUNK, for some reason--maybe they sold ad space). The old cemetery is AWESOME, btw, with decrepit tombstones, wiry scrub growing on the graves, and skulls absolutely LITTERING the ground near the cemetery wall! Fire your caretakers, guys! I have to stop here and say that Justine arrives wearing another amazing outfit*, super-short skirt and over-the-knee high-heeled boots striking just the right somber note. (I can just imagine the conversation in their inn suite: "Yes, this is what I'm wearing. I want to pay my respects in the SEXIEST WAY POSSIBLE." God, I love Europe.)

*In point of fact, Justine's outfits are great throughout--Costuminatrix, you need to see this one! ;)

Yes, as any Naschyphile could have predicted, the ruffians from the inn have followed the honeymooners out to the cemetery and proceed to loot the Rolls. Imre runs to protect his property, ignoring Justine's frantic but eminently reasonable advice NOT to, and gets stuck like a pig for his trouble, expiring as his wife screams. The robbers close in around Justine with more than money on their mind, and it seems like she's doomed to a fate of death by sheepherder rape when--look, out on the plain! Is it a wolf? Is it an ox? NO, IT'S NASCHY TO THE RESCUE!

"Get ready for The Hurting, boys."

Say what you will about his plots, but my man Jacinto KNOWS how to make an entrance. He shows up out of freakin' NOWHERE, dressed in tight black pants and a tighter black turleneck. Like a superhero he leaps in to rescue the damsel in distress--but his rescue quickly devolves into a KILL-CRAZY RAMPAGE! He picks up one of the highwaymen and literally squeezes him to death, blood flowing from the man's mouth as Paul crushes him with his love. He then knocks another criminal to the ground, picks up a large jagged rock and drops it on the hapless robber's face! SPLAT! And he's not even a freaking werewolf at this point!

Having seen quite enough, the remaining highwayman, Otvos, turns around and hightails it back to Baliavasta, counting himself lucky that his internal organs are still internal. His work done, Naschy picks up the long-since-fainted Justine and totes her back to The Black Castle, which is of course Chez Daninsky.

Sometime later Justine awakens in a sumptuous bedroom, a candelabra flickering on the bedside table, just begging to be taken wandering through the darkened house. Wander she does, dressed now in a flowing black nightie that one can only assume Paul picked out and dressed her in. Seeing Imre's body laid out on the table in the dining hall and Paul pacing around it, Justine freaks and runs. Paul chases her into the crypt, where Justine is startled by her old friend the disfigured hobo, who I just knew was going to pop up again. Somehow they get Justine back to her room (a kindly old woman--Uswika Bathory, no relation--is there for the assist), and Paul and the hobo bury Imre in his native soil.

Meanwhile, back at the inn, Otvos is mustering a new gang in hopes of getting revenge on Paul for having killed his brother and for making him ruin a brand new set of underclothes. Gyogyo offers more helpful history, claiming that the witch Uswika "breastfed the monster who lives in the castle!" meaning Paul. They plan their vengeance, not being nearly as worried as they should that the night appointed for their attack just happens to be the first night of the full moon--a lack of foresight they'll soon come to regret.

After a dose of that famous sampled wolf howl and an extreme close-up of a stuffed owl outta nowhere, we join the highwaymen in the cemetery. Soon they're also joined by a slavering werewolf with huge pectoral muscles! Wouldn't you just know it? The shotguns, they do NOTHING, and the wolf man quickly makes mincemeat out of the gang, even stopping long enough to pull a strip of human jerky from one of their necks. Otvo is the sole survivor/escapee again, and as he leaves Paul breaks his shotgun in HALF and throws it down to show his contempt for conventional weaponry. Awesome.


Back in the castle, Justine wakes up and is greeted by Uswika, who doesn't seem all that bad for a member of the Devil's La Leche League. She eventually tells Justine about the Daninsky family history, hinting that "Waldemar is...very ill." Just how ill becomes apparent when Justine witnesses his transformation from her balcony window, all done typically with shadows and convulsions--not too hi-tech, but it gets the job done.

Now that we've got THAT out of the way, Otvos is still thirsting for revenge, this time escalating hostilities by assembling a full-on torch-bearing mob to go after the werewolf. He whets the crowd's appetite for bloodlust by amazingly pulling Uswika's disembodied head out of a sack! ("I surprised her on the way over here!" he explains--I'll just bet!) Silver bullets are made and the villagers attack, though luckily for Waldemar they can't hit the broad side of a massive pec. Paul finally throttles Otvos--again in human form, he needs no claws to take out this garbage--pushes the murdered body of the disfigured hobo out of the front seat of the Rolls, and he and Justine take off into the distance, the mob satisfied just to let them leave.

You may have noticed that's an awful lot of plot without a single mention of the esteemed Dr. J, and it's not for nothing--at this point we're more than 35 minutes in to a 76 minute movie (my version is sadly cut) and so far it's been all werewolf, no scientist. But that's about to change as the newly widowed Justine takes the newly orphaned and homeless Waldemar back to London and gets proactive about his whole "lunar-triggered murderous man-beast" problem by calling in a solid from one of her friends.

Otvos gives the best head in the Carpathians

Turns out Dr. Henry Jekyll (Jack Taylor, veteran of Jess Franco joints Succubus, Jess Franco's Dracula, and Female Vampire, not to mention many other memorable 70s horrors including Satan's Sadists and the unforgettable Pieces) was one of the guests at the opening dinner party, a fact we had no way of knowing until we see him again behind an office door with a placard reading, helpfully, "Dr. Jekyll." Sporting another fabulous outfit, this time with an amazing 70s hat, Justine is obviously not going to take no for an answer. Dr. Jekyll agrees to help Waldemar and quickly develops a fool-proof plan. He will inject Daninsky with some of his grandfather's good/evil separator-elixir on the night of the next full moon; if Hyde is stronger than the werewolf, then Daninsky will transform into Hyde, and a shot of the antidote will wipe out both the lycanthropy and the Hyde-osity in one swell foop! There's a reason this guy graduated at the top of his class, you'll agree. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

(After Justine leaves, Mirta Miller as Dr. J's sexy assistant Sandra makes her appearance, and we learn that while she's in love with the good doctor, Doc is carrying a torch for Justine--the fact that she's moved from his friend Imre to this muscle-bound lycanthrope without making a stop at Jekyllville seems not to sit well...)

Brimming with Sexy

After a brief and obviously cut scene of Naschy and Justine making out (I can only assume it went further than that, as Naschy would never let it stop at just a kiss), we go with Waldemar as he travels to Dr. Jekyll's clinic on the big night. He boards a closet-sized elevator with a sexy, sexy nurse and starts up to the top floor lab, when--oh, cursed Fate!--the elevator gets stuck between floors, trapping him there on the WORST NIGHT POSSIBLE! What are the chances? Two hours of nerve-jangling suspense later they're still stuck--how they've spent the intervening time is left up to imagination--and the bad moon rises, Waldemar changes, and the nurse meets her undeserved fate. Mere moments afterward the technicians fix the elevator and the werewolf bursts into the lobby, terrifying the waiting room before dashing out into the foggy London night. A passing go-go-girl also falls to the swipe of the werewolf's claw, and a young Warren Zevon watches from his window and gets a great idea for a new tune.

Back at Imre's mansion--Justine's pad, now--Dr. Jekyll, Justine, and Waldemar go over the plan again. This scene is notable for showing one of the hazards of living in an unrenovated castle in winter, as during the conversation each actor's breath is CLEARLY visible. Brrrr! Having moved their operations to the spacious attic in Justine's house (really, this thing is so huge as to be almost German-Expressionistic), they strap Waldemar to a table, watch him change into the werewolf, and draw some blood while he rages against the leather straps. (Why he can't break them as easily as the tons of chains he's busted in his time I don't know; maybe Dr. J sedated him pre-wolf-out.)

Armed with a vial of all-powerful Daninsky Juice, Dr. J starts to get the kind of ideas one naturally gets when immersed in mad science and Naschy-musk. Somehow deducing that Daninsky holds "The key to control of the mind!" he plans to make Waldemar his guinea pig, and thus somehow gain Justine's love too. When Nurse Sandra comes on strong Dr. J gives her a backhand, which is SUCH the wrong thing to do. "Remember, Henry," she spits, glaring at him in a frighteningly evil and arousing way, "The very deepest love is easily changed into the very deepest HATE!" Too true, baby. Too true.

After Justine inflames Sandra's jealousy more by giving Henry a peck on the cheek amongst the bubbling beakers, the time finally comes to give Naschy the juice. A few patented convulsions and hey presto! Naschy notches another Classic Monster portrayal by becoming Mr. Hyde!

"Don't run. Don't even fucking try."

I'll just go ahead and state the obvious here: Naschy as Hyde == AWESOME. The bob haircut, the pale green skin, the glittering eyes, the eeeevil expression--Jacinto has thrown himself into this role with the same verve and joy he always brings to the table, and it's a joy to behold. Unfortunately and awesomely, before the experiment is complete Sandra pops up outta nowhere to BURY A DAGGER IN DR. JEKYLL'S BACK, proving that hell hath no fury of the wolfman. Hyde takes the opportunity to escape the lab and goes on a kill-crazy rampage of his own, shoving random strangers to their deaths in the Thames and later pushing Sandra onto a conveniently placed set of spikes, ending her wicked ways for good and all.

With that done, where does a vicious embodiment of the Id go? To a swingin' go-go club, of course! We get some great dancing in short short skirts and shiny shiny boots, and Hyde (in full anachronistic cape-and-cane regalia) charms a go-go girl back to his table for drinks. Before he can seal the deal, though, Hyde is affected adversely by the club's strobe-light and changes back to Waldemar! (That Jekyll formula is some strong stuff, apparently, as not only does Hyde change, but his wardrobe changes as well!) His lady companion barely has time to say, "Hey, wtf?" before the full moon changes Waldy into the werewolf! Clearing the joint with his growly awesomeness (and once again having changed shirts), the wolf man prowls back to the attic lab, his curse forcing him to hunt down the one woman he loves.

Back in the expressionistic attic (which has bales of HAY in it, for some reason--did Imre live in a barn?), Justine takes a gun loaded with silver that Dr. J had put aside "just in case," and the werewolf creeps toward her under the rafters. She tries to shoot, but with a swipe of his mighty paw Waldemar severs her jugular and sends her sprawling to the hay. Still, with her last bit of strength she gets off another shot, fatally wounding the werewolf, who falls beside her and changes back to her true love's form. They die holding hands, and the circle of tragic love is complete.

Classic Monsters, Classic Shot

Astute readers will quickly realize that DJvWM was made around the same time as VotZ, and shares some of the same personnel; in addition to Naschy and Klimovsky, Mirta Miller, who appeared as Krishna's associate priestess and gold-skinned idol in VotZ, is on hand again in the hot assistant role. In his excellent autobiography Memoirs of a Wolf Man, Naschy admits that while writing the script for VotZ, he "must have been on some controlled substance" (paraphrase). I'm not sure which came first, but I'm betting that the same substances were in effect when he wrote the screenplay for Dr. Jekyll and the Werewolf. The story structure is loose to say the least, moving on from one development to the next with the speed and agility of a werewolf leaping from crypt to crypt in a graveyard. As a result things can seem a little out of control, but you never have a chance to get bored and the enthusiasm of all involved can leave you a little breathless, but happy.

Naschy is great as always, particularly as the evil Hyde, where he really lets his joy shine through. (The werewolf makeup here is not up to the usual standard, it has to be said, though a few shots in the transformation scenes where Naschy has obviously let his beard grow out for effect is the kind of low-tech ingenuity I fucking LOVE.) Mirta Miller is wonderful as the evil sexy Sandra, and Jack Taylor makes a passable Dr. Jekyll. Shirley Corrigan as Justine is SMOKIN' HAWT, and I hope that in the uncut version of this we get to see more of her talents.

Direction-wise, Klimovsky doesn't indulge in the flashes of visual brilliance I'm used to from him--no slo-mo, few really vibrant scenes (the attic set of the finale is the big standout), and again, the pan-and-scan, cut-up version of the film I watched doubtless obscured or obliterated some of his compositions and more than one story point. (In one scene, Justine shows up with unexplained scratches all over her face and chest--I'm DYING to know!) Suffice to say I'd be very interested to see a restored, uncut version. Are you listening, dvd companies? GET ON IT!

This is one of those Naschy movies that a non-Naschyphile will likely dismiss as incoherent, sloppy, and an out-and-out mess, but for me it was still a hell of a lot of fun, and the only Daninsky flick I've seen where he gets to be TWO monsters instead of one. If you liked Fury of the Wolfman (and I did, a lot), Dr. Jekyll and the Wolf Man almost matches it for sheer craziness and fun. 2.5 thumbs--give it a shot.

And never turn your back on a Spanish nurse. Just not a good idea.



Anonymous said...

That actually sounds awesome to me - I love the way Naschy looks as Hyde, great crazy face. I seriously have to expand the dvd library and put some more Naschness in it!

The Vicar of VHS said...

Absinthe--It's a continual source of joy to me that MMMMMovies attracts such a discerning readership with such good taste. :)

There's a lot of Naschy floating around out there now, thanks to the folks at Deimos DVD especially. In fact, they just collected several of these gems into The Paul Naschy Collection, which I would totally snag if I didn't already have them all. As for more obscure/crazy stuff like DJvWM, Fury of the Wolfman, and others, they've been available on public domain DVD collections for a while, albeit in trashed/cut-up form. Still, they're cheap, and Some Naschy is better than No Naschy, always.

Happy hunting!

Tenebrous Kate said...

>>I can only assume it went further than that, as Naschy would never let it stop at just a kiss

No kidding! Where was the Paul Naschy Boob-Touching Contract Rider? I bet he fired *that* agent.

Now, seriously--the movie sounds great and everything but... OMFG WHERE CAN I GET THAT HAT?!?! I fancy myself something of a hat enthusiast and the fine chapeau in that still is giving me palpatations. And perhaps a moistie. I... need to take a moment.

The Vicar of VHS said...

Empress: which hat--Justine's or Hyde's? :P

As to the Boob-Touching Rider, I'm thinking there's got to be an uncut version of this out there somewhere that includes all the gropage we love and expect from Jacinto. It bears looking into, at any rate. ;)

Anonymous said...

Sinister Cinema's version contains all the copious extreme naughtiness missing from the Treasure Box version -- DEFINITELY worth tracking down.

The Vicar of VHS said...

Thanks, anonymous! I see not only do they have DJvWM, but also Inquisition....WANT.

You're gonna cost me some money with that suggestion. :)

Anonymous said...

My dear Vicar, you will thank me later. Guaranteed.

Karswell said...

I need to see this too... reading your review none of it sounds familiar. Just when I thought I'd seen all the Naschties, I guess I have not.

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